Christian Yoga and John Paul II’s Theology of the Body

According to rabbinic tradition, the first commandment God gives Adam and Eve in the Garden is to have sex: Pru vehravu, “be fruitful and multiply.” It’s little wonder then that Christian theology has pondered for centuries the place that human sexuality and bodily existence have in God’s plan for the universe. On the one hand, anyone familiar with the Jewish testament knows that sexual attraction (and sexual sin) permeate virtually every book. What’s more, two centuries of crusading secularism has exaggerated Christian pruddery in the early centuries of Christianity and in the Middle Ages.

On the other hand, it’s also true that the monastic movement that led to so many cultural and educational achievements in the West did tend to emphasize the negative aspects of human sexuality and bodily existence — if only because vowed celibate monks and nuns inevitably saw sexual feelings as temptations to be avoided at all costs.

Into this tangled history stepped the late pope John Paul II. Raised by his widowed father in Poland during the nightmare of World War II, Karol Wotylwa was a working man, athlete and actor before he became a Catholic priest and a philosopher. His experience with young married couples during his early years as a pastor — combined with his in-depth study of early 20th century phenomenologists — allowed the young priest to see the sexual embrace and life in the body in an entirely new way: as quite literally a way to God.

When he was elected pope, John Paul delivered a remarkable series of 129 lectures during his Wednesday audiences on what has become known as the Theology of the Body (TOTB) — a very traditional, very radical teaching on human embodiment and sexual attraction that papal biographer George Weigel has described as “a kind of theological time bomb” that will have dramatic consequences …perhaps in the twenty-first century” (Witness to Hope, 343).

John Paul’s argument, in essence, is that both secular libertines and Christian pruddery have missed the point. Human beings are radically, essentially physical. Human beings are not “ghosts in a machine,” as Descartes described it.

In a dramatic way, the entire Christian understanding of the incarnation means that Christians are and must be “pro-sex” and must celebrate the body generally. I would even say that Christians take the body at least as seriously as the devotees of most religions, including even Hinduism. The doctrine of the bodily resurrection reflects the Christian belief that we are our bodies — that if we are to survive death then it must be a physical survival. A disembodied spirit would not be a human being.

In the Baghavad Gita, Krishna teaches Arjuna the exact opposite of the Christian view of our essentially bodily natures:

As a man discards his threadbare robes and puts on new, so the Spirit throws off its worn-out bodies and puts on new ones… The Spirit in man is imperishable.

While Christianity agrees with the Gita (and with yoga!) that there is an imperishable, immortal essence of the human being, which, for lack of a better word, the west has traditionally called the “soul,” it does not agree that the physical body is merely incidental to that essence — something that can be “thrown off” for a new one.

Rather, in the Christian view, we are embodied spirits or spiritual bodies — and thus it is our bodies themselves that are (or will be) immortal. Thus, the Christian hope is even more absurdly optimistic than people give us credit for: We actually believe that we will live forever… in glorified “resurrection” bodies, not as disembodied spirits. I’ve never been the least scandalized by those radical yogis who claim that yoga can lead to physical immortality of a sort or at least extreme longevity: it seems perfectly plausible to me given the Christian revelation.

That is why St. Paul tells the (male) Corinthians that they should take good care of their bodies and not defile themselves with prostitutes — and why Christian practitioners of yoga celebrate the body and do what we can to maintain good health. That is also why Pope John Paul II, in his teachings on the Theology of the Body, emphasized how incarnate human beings come to God in and through their bodies — and that sex, far from being inherently sinful, is actually a way to God. In John Paul’s teaching, sex (for non-celibate “householders”) is a sacrament (a “sign”) of divine presence because it is the preeminent example of that spiritual intimacy that is the birthright of all human beings.

10 Ways Meditation Can Change Your Life

November 11, 2012 by  
Filed under Health Benefits, Meditation

Many people see meditation as something that is ‘new age’ or ‘alternative.’ Nothing could be further from the truth. Meditation, which has become more and more popular in recent years, is actually a lost art form, which has been practiced for thousands and thousands of years. So, how can the lost art of meditation improve your life?

1.Through meditation, you can build confidence. The best way to build confidence with meditation is through guided meditation, which means that you use a recording to lead you through the meditation process. While this is happening, the recorded messages are actually building up your self confidence. It’s absolutely amazing.

2.With meditation, you can seriously increase your energy and your strength.
Because stress has so many profound effects on us mentally and physically, when we use meditation to eliminate or better control stress, we almost instantly have more energy – because our minds aren’t weighed down with problems, and more strength, because stress can literally affect your immune system, which affects everything else.

3.Meditation has proven to reduce stress, and many find that they experience less instances of stress when they practice meditation on a regular basis. It’s a proven tension reliever.

4.Meditation helps to keep you in a positive frame of mind, by actually increasing the levels of serotonin produced by the brain.
This will alleviate headaches, tension, depression, and numerous other problems, and give you a great sense of well-being as well.

5.With regular meditation, your blood pressure will remain normal.
This is largely due to the stress relief that meditation provides, but there is also an impact on how blood moves through the body, and how the blood vessels react in such a positive way to meditation. So, in this sense, the result of normal blood pressure has both mental and physical origins.

6.Through regular meditation, you will find that you are better able to focus, that your memory is better, and that your mind simply ‘feels’ stronger and better able to handle the trials of everyday life.

7.Meditation helps you to reach a higher plane, where you are able to see things much clearer. No matter what problems you may have, when you meditate, solutions for those problems simply become clearer in your mind, and then you are able to take action to clear away the problems.

8.Studies have shown that meditation helps you to lose weight. Those who diet and exercise, in an effort to lose weight find that they get greater results faster, and with permanent results, when they throw regular meditation into the mix. Stress has always been a hindrance to losing weight, which is probably why meditation does indeed help.

9.Other studies have also shown that meditation lowers the risk of heart disease. The research done at the Georgia Prevention Institute found that the blood vessel lining was better able to relax in subjects who included meditation on a regular basis. This relaxation of the blood vessel lining can be achieved with medication as well, which is how heart disease patients are currently treated.

10.People who start out the day with fifteen to thirty minutes of meditation find that they statistically have a better, happier day.
They are able to handle anything that comes up with ease, with no stress – or at the very least minimal short term stress, and move easily from task to task, with complete focus.

The numerous mental and physical benefits of meditation should be enough to convince everyone that meditation is one of the elements of a healthy, happy, peaceful life. Unfortunately, there are many people who feel that they are too busy to learn meditation, much less to practice it. The good news is that meditation isn’t at all hard to learn – and if you really take a look at the benefits, the real question should be how can you afford not to make time for daily – or at least weekly – meditation?

Eckhart Tolle and The Power of Now for Christians

“Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” — Matthew 6: 34

I’m a big fan of Eckhart Tolle and his groundbreaking book, The Power of Now. Some people find it a little New Agey but I think it’s a modern spiritual classic well worth a close look.It helped me a lot during a crisis I faced in my own life. I wasn’t a bit surprised when the socialite Parris Hilton was photographed clutching a copy of The Power of Now (along with the Bible) when she was preparing to spend three weeks in jail for what amounted to a traffic ticket.

For Christian yogis, there are many similarities between The Power of Now and such spiritual classics as my personal favorite, Jean-Pierre de Caussade’s Abandonment to Divine Providence – and many important differences as well.

Unlike many “New Age” authors, Eckhart Tolle is very much a part of the “reality based community.”

Aside from his admittedly weird concept of the “pain body,” there are no grand theosophical speculations from him. The Power of Now rings out with the power of common sense. Also, Tolle is remarkably deferential to the western Christian spiritual traditions and few practicing Christians will find much to be offended about in The Power of Now.

What I like about the book is Tolle’s willingness to think through the entire enlightenment process from scratch – and, in a sense, provide a new overview of the human situation outside of traditional (either Eastern or Western) spiritual categories. In a sense, he invents his own synthesis and his own vocabulary. That is probably why people find it such a powerful book. (Tolle does make references to other spiritual traditions, such as Avaita Vedanta and A Course in Miracles, but mostly as a point of reference.)

Another thing I like about it is the radical way Tolle presents his ideas.This makes them very clear and they hit you with incredible force – even if, when you think about things a bit, you’ll probably end up wanting to qualify Tolle’s ideas.

Let me give you an example. For Tolle, time is an “illusion.”He says that over and over again, almost like a mantra.The past no longer exists. The future is not yet. The only thing that actually exists is the Now, the present moment .His entire book is centered around this idea. But of course, even if the past doesn’t exist in the present, that doesn’t make it an “illusion.” An “illusion” is something that appears to exist but doesn’t and never did. The past impacts the present and shapes it – as does the present.But Tolle knows all this. He isn’t speaking philosophically but pedagogically.

Another one of his extreme declarations is that the thinking is a form of mental illness. Like Gurdjieff, Tolle believes that the human mind is almost literally deranged. It spends most of its time dwelling on the past or imagining the future, to the detriment, in Tolle’s opinion, of life in the present. That’s why Tolle can say that, strictly speaking, there are no problems. Most of what people spend all their time worrying about are imagined possibilities for events that may, or may not, occur sometime in the future. In the actual here and now – life as it is lived at the present moment – there are no problems.

One tip: I listened to The Power of Now on CD and I highly recommend it in that way. (I also bought the book to follow along and look things up after listening to the CDs.)Tolle’s gentle, eerie voice – with a tinge of a German accent – is mesmerizing.

For those of you who want a taste of his approach, I am posting a VIDEO of his now-famous talks he gave at the New Age retreat center of Findhorn, in Scotland. It’s really worth listening to.

Has Yoga Strayed Too Far From Its Hindu Roots?

April 6, 2011 by  
Filed under Hatha Yoga, Spirituality

For centuries in India, yoga has been a practice rooted in the Hindu faith. Today, it is a massively popular fitness tradition in the United States, part of a wellness lifestyle for some 15 million Americans. And some Hindus are not happy with the way yoga is treated in the US. The Hindu American Foundation claims the tradition has strayed too far from its Hindu roots and has launched a campaign called ‘Take Back Yoga.’ In Tell Me More’s weekly “Faith Matters” conversation, guest host Farai Chideya puts the question, “who owns yoga?” to Sheetal Shah of the Hindu American Foundation, and Virginia Cowen, a yoga instructor and body trainer.

Now it’s time for “Faith Matters,” the part of the program when we talk about matters of spirituality.

Today, a practice that has its roots in India but has become part of a health and wellness lifestyle for some 15 million Americans: yoga. Yoga has been practiced as part of the Hindu faith for centuries. But in the U.S. and other Western countries, it has evolved.

(Soundbite of advertisements)

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CHIDEYA: Now, one group says this has gone too far. The Hindu-American Foundation claims yoga in the United States has strayed too far from its roots in Hindu philosophy and religion. They’ve launched a campaign called Take Back Yoga, which asks Americans to appreciate yoga’s debt to Hinduism.

The issue has sparked a heated debate within the tranquil world of yoga, and we wanted to know more about it. So we’ve called on Sheetal Shah of the Hindu-American Foundation. She heads the Take Back Yoga campaign.

And we are also joined by Virginia Cowen. She’s an associate professor of health, physical education and dance at Queensborough Community College in New York. She’s also a board member of Yoga Alliance, a group that works to encourage a standard for yoga instruction. They’re both in our New York bureau. Thank you both so much for joining us.

Professor VIRGINIA COWEN (Board Member, Yoga Alliance; Queensborough Community College): Thank you.

Ms. SHEETAL SHAH (Director of Development, Hindu-American Foundation): Happy to be here.

CHIDEYA: So Sheetal, let me begin with you. When you talk about this campaign, Take Back Yoga, what – specifically – is it asking people to do, and who is it asking to change?

Ms. SHAH: The impetus of this campaign really began a couple years ago, when we noticed in countless yoga magazines, and specifically Yoga Journal, the lack of reference to Hindu or Hinduism. But it was full of references to other faiths, particularly Buddhism – and even mystical Christianity, for example.

So ultimately, when we got a hold of somebody at Yoga Journal and they told us that yes, in fact, we avoid using the terms Hindu and Hinduism because they carry too much baggage, we, as an advocacy organization for the Hindu-American community, obviously felt compelled to speak up.

CHIDEYA: Let me bring in Virginia Cowen. You teach health and physical education; you’re a yoga instructor. So do you agree with Sheetal’s perspective on the practice of yoga in this country, and what Take Back Yoga is trying to do?

Prof. COWEN: I’m not Hindu. I am a body worker so I practice massage, Pilates, personal training, in addition to yoga. And my training in yoga included instruction in yoga philosophy. And I will, as a practitioner, do anything that’s legal to get people to stretch, because I think it’s very good for them.

I think people need to practice stress reduction, and however people do that is great by me. But many of the classes, I think, have evolved into something else, and then yoga is just the sales tool rather than something that’s an intact practice.

CHIDEYA: And so, what about this hybrid fitness genres? I want to ask both of you about this, but Virginia first. You know, we heard about lip yoga and, you know, Mommy and Me Yoga, and power yoga. I mean, do you think that it’s been over-marketed or over-specified?

Prof. COWEN: A spa director I heard at a conference once said that she did a class called facelift yoga because she just wanted to get people in the door. And so when you get that extreme – disco yoga, for example, or yoga with loud music totally defeats the purpose of withdrawing your senses and turning the attention inward.

CHIDEYA: Sheetal, what do you think about that?

Ms. SHAH: I actually agree with a lot of what Virginia said. I think that there are spectrums that are pretty legitimate, and then there are some that you hear about – yoga and wine, yoga and chocolate, naked yoga – makes you kind of wonder exactly what’s going on, and is that really yoga? Is that really serving the purpose of what yoga was meant to do?

CHIDEYA: If you’re just joining us, you are listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News.

We’re speaking with Sheetal Shah, of the Hindu American Foundation; and Virginia Cowen, associate professor of health, physical education and dance at the City University of New York. We’re talking about a campaign by the Hindu American Foundation called Take Back Yoga, asking Americans to recognize yoga’s roots in Hinduism.

Virginia, I’m going to go back to you. Do you think that it’s important to explicitly talk about the link to Hinduism, the link to all of the different Vedic texts, and the gods that are incorporated, even, into the names of the poses -or is that not important to you?

Prof. COWEN: As an instructor, it’s not important to me. And I guess if you look at the eight limbs of yoga, there are some basic tenants in that, that sort of apply to human nature – nonviolence, noncompetition. And that part of philosophy, I think, can be easily incorporated even into a fitness class.

To listen to this program, click here...

Ashtanga Yoga Pattabhi Jois

February 12, 2009 by  
Filed under Ashtanga Yoga, Pattabhi Jois

Why You Don’t Have to Change Your Religion to Practice Transcendental Meditate

You need not change your religion, philosophical or ethical beliefs. Or your lifestyle, for that matter. Transcendental Meditation (TM) does not involve any religion, philosophy or any particular lifestyle. It does not prescribe any kind of codes of conduct, ethical or moral guidelines. Nor does it ask you to perform any kind of worship.

TM, in fact, is a simple technique that will enhance your religious well-being, no matter which faith you belong to. Millions of people of all religions, including priests, practice TM. They say they can follow the tenets of their religion better as TM eliminates their stress and fatigue and increases energy and intelligence.

Here’s what TM is not:

It’s not a religion.TM is a meditation technique. Millions of people of all religions, including priests, practice TM and reap its benefits. It releases stress and purifies the mind, body, and emotions of the person who practices it, thus helping him/her to be more faithful to his/her religion. Meditation itself was a technique religiously followed by the Buddhists and later spread throughout the world as a popular medium to relieve stress and find all the benefits one may want to find and acquire in his life. The results are very encouraging for those who follow and meditation is followed by people of all faiths.

It’s not a philosophy. While philosophical thoughts mainly dwell on theories, transcendental meditation is almost a science. We have seen people actively following it in their daily lifestyles and several cases of incredible benefits have been observed.TM is a simple, mechanical technique, like switching on a TV or computer. The technique is scientific too, because it is universally applicable, repeatable, and verifiable by anyone, anywhere.Scientific research on the Transcendental Meditation program proves that the technique works. Positive reports from people who practice the technique show that anyone can learn and enjoy it.

It’s not a lifestyle. You don’t need to change your lifestyle to start practicing TM. All you have to do is just learn it, practice it, and enjoy the benefits .You can have better memory, clearer and more orderly thinking, greater creativity and ability to focus, use of your whole brain and its full potential, sharper intellect, higher IQ, better grades, more alertness, expanded consciousness. Students following these techniques regularly have found out that they perform better at schools, get better grades and show their true potentials.

The best proof of the Transcendental Meditation program is in learning it yourself. The benefits come naturally and spontaneously.

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A Beginner’s Guide to Christian Yoga

January 17, 2009 by  
Filed under Christian yoga, Relaxation, Yoga

Many people are crazy about yoga. The reason most people practice yoga is that it makes them feel better and feel more in shape. The different poses and postures make their body flexible and healthy. Yoga for most is the best natural way to relax and unwind. If you are interested in keeping your body
in shape, this might be the best exercise for you.

Did you know that yoga could help fight certain illness that may come your way? There has been research that proved yoga helps you to control anxiety, reduces asthma, arthritis, blood pressure, back pain, multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue, epilepsy, diabetes, headaches, stress, and more.

Yoga has a lot of benefits and advantages. All in a day’s work, it can reduce tension and stress. Of course, after a heavy day, you will feel that your muscles have been stuck up and you will feel wasted.

If you do practice yoga, you may see an increase in your self-esteem. It is important to gain confidence so that you may face people without worry. Yoga is good for the body in increasing your muscle tone, strength, stamina, and flexibility. If you are too heavy, or conscious about your body shape, yoga can help you lower your body fat and help you stay in shape.

Yoga exercises can also burn excess fat and give you the desired figure that you want.

If you need time to relax and forget your responsibilities, then yoga will be good for improving your concentration and can enhance your creativity. Yoga helps you to think positively because it can help keep you free of your anxieties. If you have a fresh mind, you can easily think good thoughts.

Your body needs to relax often. Sometimes, at the end of the workday, you an feel exhausted. After some of the hardest days, we may not find time to unwind because troubles at work are still on our mind. Yoga helps you to clear your mind and create a sense of calmness and well-being.

Yoga exercises help you improve your blood circulation. Your organs and veins need to be exercised for them to function properly. Yoga can help stimulate your immune system, which can help keep you free from diseases.

Some people practice yoga to get enlightened. They believe that yoga will help them lift their spirit and keep them relieved. Yoga works differently for people, be it spiritual, emotional, psychological, mental, or physical.

Many people think that yoga is only for spiritual, or religious, people. But that myth is wrong. Even if you are not religious, you can do yoga. You will see and feel the difference, and at the same time find out how it works for you.

Due to the pressure and demands of life, we are stressed out and forget the essences of our lives. We tend to lose touch with the ones we used to spend time with, even ourselves.

We find ourselves rushing most of the time with deadlines and hassles at our jobs. This leaves us little time for our minds to wander and have that physical awareness.

These are a few things that yoga can provide. Occasionally, dedicate some time to relax and unwind, which only yoga can do.

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If You Want to Start Practicing Yoga, Here’s What to Do!

December 21, 2008 by  
Filed under Beginning Yoga, Yoga

Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years in India but it has taken the attention of the west only in the late 19th century. Before it became popular, people in the United States thought that yoga was a mere peculiar activity invented to distort the body to come up with different positions for some strange reasons. Even until now, some people are still skeptical about yoga and refuse to undertake it. Sad to say, these people do not know the benefits they are missing.

If there is anytime that is best to begin a yoga practice, it is now. There are so many reasons why it is important for you to relive your life this very instant and yoga can be that ultimate solution.

First things first, not all myths about yoga are true. To set things straight, yoga is not a completely religious practice so you could set aside the religious issue right at the start. Yoga is also not about mind over body; it is about their “unity”, which is in fact the literal translation of the word “yoga” itself. The practice is not about repetitively reaching your toes as many times as possible; it is about proper breathing and mental focus while maintaining a certain position. There is nothing superstitious about it. In fact, modern science has already long confirmed the benefits of practicing yoga and the list becomes longer as more researches are being conducted year after year on the benefits of yoga.

Yoga is not only an art and a science. It is a lifestyle, an exercise, a therapy, a preventive cure and a medical treatment all rolled into one. Yoga is a complete way of living that can improve your life and you as a person. It is the perfect physical and mental therapy to have the most blissful life you once thought you could never experience. That is why beginning yoga now will bring you that much closer to reaping the benefits of the practice as early as possible.

Yoga has a many physical benefits to offer. It increases the flexibility of the joints, tendons and ligaments of the body. It also tones your body absent the dreadful lifting of weights. The most apparent effect of yoga on the body is loss of weight that is why yoga is also a popular exercise. Yoga is in fact the most holistic form of exercise. It exercises those body parts that are not consciously worked out upon even by gym addicts.

Another revolutionary advantage of practicing yoga is its health benefits to the body. It massages and stimulates all organs of the body. It in effect becomes the perfect preventive measure to avoid diseases, including the life-threatening ones. By becoming more attuned to the body and what the body is telling you, some yoga practitioners have also attained a heightened awareness to impeding illnesses. Yoga also detoxifies the body because all the stretching makes the blood circulate to every part of the body, so every part of the body gets the right amount of oxygen supply. In fact, it has been known to relieve or improve different kinds of medical conditions like high blood pressure, asthma, diabetes, arthritis, heart diseases, varicose veins, obesity, respiration problems, body pain and chronic fatigue. Of recent, researchers have found incredible effects of yoga on HIV-diagnosed persons and the benefits are truly promising.

Most of the prevalent diseases in urban areas originate from a common problem and that is stress. Yoga can help to alleviate stress that work or school may bring you. It also has other mental benefits such as reducing body tension and boosting self-esteem. It increases self-awareness, focuses attention and relaxes, calms and clears the mind. It is because it allows the mind to concentrate on the self and the body, which brings about positive effects including improvement of mood and attitude to a better you. As a whole, it brings your emotions into equilibrium, giving you a more positive disposition in life.

But the truth of the matter is that these are mere “side effects” of the real benefits of yoga. Yoga makes you learn more about yourself, your mind and your body. It will give you a sense of enlightenment, where every inch of you meet in a dimensional space where everything is ecstatically immaculate. Its goal is to fuse every part of you, the physical, mental, intellectual and spiritual levels. In fact, it is no secret that yogis are generally happy people with a zest and appreciation for life.

The world is a busy place. Busy people usually live a routinary life that sometimes, they forget to take care of themselves. In fact, modern day diseases are mostly caused by lifestyle and work. Most people who acquire these illnesses are too busy to exercise and give time to themselves. To become a better person, you must act on it and the best time to do that is right now.

Change your life by changing your lifestyle and the best beginning could be through the practice of yoga. So, before saying “no”, try giving yoga a shot and you may realize that it is the final answer you have been unknowingly searching for all along.
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Funny Video About Yoga Scammers Who Try to Pick Up Women While Doing Yoga

November 13, 2008 by  
Filed under Yoga Etiquette

At the yoga class I attend, it’s probably about 80% female. And yes, while many of the students are, like me, of a “certain age,” there are also plenty of beautiful, lithesome young women who enjoy the atmosphere of the yoga studio over that of a typical fitness club. Nevertheless, meat market scamming does occur, apparently, as this hilarious video about a “Yoga Dude” shows. (I must say I’ve never seen anything like this at the yoga class I attend, but then again I’m older than Moses…)

Yoga Allows Christians to Quiet Down, Prepare for Meditation

November 11, 2008 by  
Filed under Christian yoga, Meditation

By Bill Nolan

Every Monday evening for the past six weeks, I have left the treasures of Western civilization and headed East. OK, so it is only two blocks from my home and only one of them is east, but go with me here. I have become a sojourner in a new time and space. I have been instructed to configure myself in ways previously thought to be impossible given my physical structure. I have begun the practice of yoga.

Now let me dispel a few misconceptions: There is nothing un-Christian about practicing yoga. My eternal soul is in no danger, at least not from this practice. And there is nothing particularly Christian about practicing yoga, either. Its roots are in Hindu and later Buddhist philosophical and theological thought; the ultimate purpose of yoga is to prepare for meditation—in other words, all movements are preparation for the experience of stillness. Thus, while a benefit of yoga might be increased physical fitness, the goal of yoga is spiritual enlightenment.

The first Monday night I attended class I asked if we had to sit “Indian style.” I thought I was supposed to bend at the knees in order to touch my toes. And every time I was supposed to inhale, I was exhaling and vice-versa. I couldn’t have been doing things more wrong and I was frustrated because everyone else had legs that crossed the way they were supposed to, could reach the floor easily and knew how to breathe correctly. If I hadn’t already paid the non-refundable fee for the eight-week course, my first formal yoga class might also have been my last.

Of course, any spiritual practice that seeks a greater awareness of my body, mind and spirit will take practice, patience and self-discipline. And it can be a frustrating experience because it never goes exactly as I map it out. Too often, my best efforts fall short because perfection—whether that be God’s definitive “yes” in answer to my prayer for happiness or the unmatched quality of my “downward dog” pose—is the only acceptable outcome.

Yoga has taught me much about my quest for spiritual perfection. First, no such perfection exists. That makes letting go of that goal a bit easier. Second, the mere awareness of my physical being is itself a path to enlightenment. I am more aware of my body, of how it moves and bends and takes in and expels oxygen. I am conscious of the rhythmic, if not always artistic, connections between my movements and my stillness and am more aware than ever of the need for balance in both. Third, there is a power and grace that is found in humility. Yoga is a humbling experience, not because it reminds me of what my body cannot do, but because it reminds me that if my soul cannot be silent, I cannot hear the voice of God. If my mind cannot be aware of my breath, my whole being will be out of sync. And if I cannot experience the One that is within me, I will never experience the One in another. Those are the insights from yoga so far. So I just signed up for six more weeks. I have so much more to learn…

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